The goodbyes and the gifts just keep on coming. Today I had dinner with a girl that I’ve been tutoring for the last five years. She’s going to be starting sixth grade in a few weeks, and it’s crazy to think I met her when she was in kindergarten. Anyhow, she’s a sweetheart, and since I’m not going to see her for quite a while, she, her mom, and I had dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was my treat (for once), as they had been so nice to me over the years. It was a good decision on my part, as they gave me a Samsung digital camera gift. It was much appreciated, and it will come in quite handy in Europe, I’m sure. So all in all, it was a good day. On that note, let’s start the day’s Countdown!:
1) Survivor – Destiny’s Child
3) Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix) – Los Del Rio
4) A New Agenda – Janet Jackson
5) I’m Happy – Lee So-ra
The day’s countdown starts with “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. The group had some smokin’ hits (my personal favorite being “Jumpin’ Jumpin”), but they’ve always inspired mixed feelings from me. Let’s face it, the group was all about Beyonce, Beyonce, and Beyonce, with the other members relegated strictly to the background. Of course, when a couple of the original members tried to rectify the situation, it was Bye-Bye, Talk To You Never. Even the group’s name is rather telling: Destiny’s Child, not Destiny’s Children. Gee, I wonder which member of the group was that particular child. Hmm… Anyhow, “Survivor” is rather catchy, but it’s a bit too shallow and silly to be the female power anthem that it clearly wants to be (lyrics like “I’m not gonna diss you on the Internet” and “I’m not gonna compromise my Christianity” just come off more self-serving than empowering here). Still, it is a notable addition to the group’s catalogue if only for being one of the few songs that gives perennial third wheel member Michelle Williams a solo part.
Today’s Countdown is a bit schizophrenic in mood, as the woo-hoo, girl power vibe switches to the despairing elegy that is Neil Young’s “Philadelphia,” taken from the movie by the same name. I personally didn’t care for the movie and found it rather overwrought, but Tom Hanks’ performance was spot-on, and I was really glad for him when he won the Oscar. I remembered a number of years before when Tom was nominated for “Big,” which was such an awesome movie, and I felt so bad for him when he lost out to Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man.” I thought, ‘Oh, man, that sucks, because that’s the best shot he’s ever gonna get.’ Well, my cinematic predictions proved to be just as off the mark as my tennis predictions, that’s for sure. Anyhow, “Philadelphia” the song is all about hopelessness and despair, and it’s awfully touching, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone to listen to it while walking on a bridge, that’s for sure.
Then the mood abruptly changes gears once again to the song that inspired the dance craze known as the Macarena. I actually remember breaking out this dance with my high school friend Pearle in a fashion boutique in Santa Monica where the song started playing, both of us laughing our asses off while people looked at us like we were crazy. Good times. But listening to the song again, I hadn’t realized that the song’s story was so disturbing. Don’t remember? Well, the song is basically about this girl Macarena who has a boyfriend but decides to cheat on him–with TWO guys at once, mind you–simply because they’re “so hot.” Hmm. I bet her poor boyfriend wasn’t doing the Macarena when he found out. Still, the beat is quite irresistible.
After that slut tale, it’s time for Janet–sorry, Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty–with “A New Agenda.” This is a great track and a great reminder of a time when Janet was singing about things other than how much she likes sex. It’s a call against racism in which Janet declares herself an “African-American woman standing tall with pride.” Unfortunately, Janet’s last three or four albums have found her embarrassing herself further and further with her Penthouse oohs and declarations. To get back on track, she needs to do several things: 1) Work on her voice. She’s never been a power singer, but she had a pretty Diana Ross-style coo, which has turned weak and raspy in recent years. 2) Go back to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and regain the hooks that she once had in spades. 3) Again, enough with the whole I’m-a-sexual-creature crap, and write about the world around you. With Michael gone, Janet needs to step up to carry on the legendary Jackson name, and I’m hoping she can do it.
Finally, we have Korean chanteuse Lee So-ra with her ironic “I’m Happy.” You don’t need to understand Korean to listen to the song and realize that she is not happy at all. Of course, the lyrics do make the point clear. She’s sending her lover away, because she knows she’s not what he needs, and she’s trying to assure him that she’ll be absolutely fine, as she is perfectly happy. Yeah, right. In the end, she finally crumbles, telling him goodbye while confessing that she’ll love him until the day she dies. Heartbreaking stuff, and Lee So-ra’s inimitable voice suits the song perfectly, sending waves of sadness right to the heart. And this emotional tsunami of a song drowns out the catchiness of “Macarena” in the end for the win.
Winner: I'm Happy – Lee So-ra